Fired-up Saints aim to take advantage of cup fatigue

Saints get stuck in during their last game against Wakefield

Saints get stuck in during their last game against Wakefield

First published in Sport St Helens Star: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Sports Writer

THE last time Saints travelled to Headingley the week after a Challenge Cup final, a team featuring such legendary names as Iro, Sculthorpe, Long, Fairleigh, Cunningham and Joynt came out on the wrong end of a 74-16 hiding.

Ian Millward’s 2001 class had, of course, just completed the treble and the combination of being physically and mentally drained, as well as any ill effects from the post-match celebrations, no doubt played a part.

So Friday sees the boot on the other foot and Saints will need to take advantage of that if they are to maintain their push for the League Leaders’ Shield.

Saints have to win two out of their last three games to make sure of finishing top and claim their first piece of silverware since Daniel Anderson’s departure in 2008.

Leeds will not roll over, not least because Headingley will be bouncing for the homecoming game after the club’s first Challenge Cup win of the millennium.

Nathan Brown believes Wembley’s win is simply the icing on the cake for a Leeds side that has already shown its quality with repeated title successes.

Brown said: “A few people have described winning the Challenge Cup as the making of them as a great team, but any side that can win six Grand Finals is a great team. But yes, winning the cup is the icing on the cake.

“They have had a nucleus of six or seven players that they have won the lot with and that is a great achievement.”

However, after paying tribute to Leeds, Brown was more keen to focus on the talents and capabilities of his own squad, believing that the plan he has put in place can make the best fist possible of getting something from this year.

“The changes we have made gives us our best shot. Although that may not be everyone’s cup of tea and some other teams may think it is stupid, it is the best thing that suits the players we have got and gives us a good shot at it.”

Fit-again Lance Hohaia, who has been out with a foot injury since the London game, is a direct replacement for Gary Wheeler, who suffered a groin injury against Wakefield.

James Roby is fit having had to have stitches in a deep gash on his thigh against Wakefield.

In the pack, Saints effectively started against Wakefield with four props, listing Anthony Laffranchi and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook in the second row.

A similar strategy is anticipated for the set-to with the heavy-duty Rhinos six.

“We are not looking to change much,” Brown said.

“It seemed to work the other day, although we know we are going up in class.

“Let’s see how they go. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t improve on last time for a number of reasons.

“One is that we have had two weeks of practice, the other is Lance comes back and he is a key player in a key position and that should help us.”

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